Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of Pham Minh Hoang, a blogger with French nationality who teaches mathematics at the Ho Chi Minh City Polytechnic School. He has been held incommunicado since his arrest on 13 August for allegedly violating article 79 of the criminal code, which refers to attempts to overthrow the government.
The authorities have not explained why he is being held and his family has received no word of him since his arrest. Under Vietnamese law, the maximum period that the police can detain someone for the purposes of investigation is nine days. His wife, Le Thi Kieu Oanh, has publicly voiced concern about the treatment he may be receiving in detention.
Hoang’s illegal detention is unacceptable. Everything indicates that he was arrested because of the articles posted on his blog and his involvement in dissident networks. By arresting a French citizen without compunction, the Vietnamese authorities have confirmed their determination to silence criticism – especially criticism on the sensitive issue of relations with China – in the run-up to the Communist Party congress scheduled for the start of next year.
Reporters Without Borders calls on the authorities to allow French consular representatives to have immediate and regular access to Hoang. At a news conference in Paris on 8 July, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner called for the protection of online free expression and undertook to defend “cyber-dissidents” who were the victims of censorship in other countries
Know by the pen-name of Phan Kien Quoc (http://pkquoc.multiply.com), Hoang is a politically committed blogger whose articles on education, the environment and the defence of Vietnam’s sovereignty in its relations with China have been widely circulated online. He participated in a campaign against Chinese mining of bauxite in Vietnam’s central highlands and his name was at the bottom of a petition on this issue that drew a lot of support in Vietnam.
Now aged 55, Hoang studied in France and spent around 20 years there before returning to his country of origin 10 years ago in other to teach and help the development of scientific education.
Reporters Without Borders is very disappointed that the government did not signal a break with its repressive policies by including bloggers and journalists in the prisoners who were amnestied in honour of Vietnam’s National Holiday on 2 September. The organisation wrote to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on 20 July urging him to pardon 19 free speech defenders.